Your company just landed a new client, congratulations! The next thing you do will set the tone for what is hopefully a long, profitable relationship. The first call, or kick-off call, is crucial to building trust and creating a great environment to work with your new client.
How do you make sure that you crush this call, ensuring that you have a client for the long-term?
Do Your Homework
The foundation for crushing a kick-off call with your new client is spending as much time as you possibly can to learn the client’s business, history, plans for the future, and competitive environment. Learn their product offerings, study their website, and in general, pretend you are doing a research project on them. Spend as much time doing this research as you did selling them on your services. Convey the importance of having a long-term relationship by understanding the business before you head into this first meeting.
In a perfect world, you are able to meet in person. Ask for a few hours to meet with the client and anyone that has a stake in the project. This is the time where you establish commonalities that can help create a relationship that will allow you to freely communicate during difficult times – because there WILL be some. What do you have in common with them? What shared thoughts or philosophies do you have in common?
Ask Great Questions
This is similar to building rapport, but straddles the personal and professional arenas. Go into this meeting with questions about your contacts and their business. Many of these questions will come up during your research of the company, but be sure to listen for anything that raises more questions. It’s crucial to ask these in the beginning, rather than assume you know the answer and address it later in the process. We all love to talk about ourselves, so by asking thoughtful questions, you will demonstrate that you care more about them and their business than “looking good” by talking about your company too much. They selected you for a reason, it’s ok to stop selling now.
Utilize Active Listening
This is a tough one! Have you ever been in a meeting where you were nervous and spent most of the time thinking about the next question that you wanted to ask? I think this is true for most of us when under pressure. Active listening involves being completely focused on what the other person is saying. Leave NO doubt that you are 100% focused on them. Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge that you understand the message. In person, this involves using body language and verbal cues to indicate that you are actively listening. On a conference call this can be a bit trickier. We have all experienced delays on calls like this where you seem to spend half the time talking over each other. (If you haven’t seen this video on conference calls yet, please check it out below… I’ll wait.) Give a full 2 second pause to make sure they are done with their thought. There’s nothing more frustrating than having someone jump in before you finished their sentence. You may already have heard their answer before, but if you give them the impression that you aren’t listening, they are going to get the wrong first impression of you.
Rather than focus on the information that you already know, or have heard from clients before, focus on what is new. Look for something that they say that you haven’t heard before, this will help prevent the mind from wandering – or worse, filling in the blanks with assumptions based on past performance. Stay focused, be relaxed in your body language / voice, and ask great questions!
Establish Next Steps
Be very clear what the next steps are. After all questions have been addressed, line out the immediate next steps, as well as what the first 60-90 days will look like. You’ll likely have a list of items that you will need from them, so have it ready in an easy to consume format. If you need X, Y, and Z make sure that you have clearly outlined these items (and why you need them) in a leave-behind document or deliverable at the end of the call. Briefly touch base on these items and let them know that they don’t have to take notes because you have already put them together.
Great Follow Up
You’re doing great so far, but it’s not over yet! You can crush the kick-off meeting, but what comes after may be even more important. Have a team member that is solely responsible for writing down EVERY THING YOU SAID YOU WOULD DELIVER. Nothing erodes confidence and trust faster than not delivering everything you said you would… and on time. If you’re like me, you can’t walk and chew gum, so the minute after I say something – or promise something, it’s out of my head. Having someone get my back and take notes is crucial for me, to make sure that I didn’t forget the smallest thing.
Be sure to get the items that you promised over when you said you would, or let them know the minute you think it’s going to be delayed for some reason. This is one of the most important skills to have when managing any client.
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be off to a great start. Did I miss anything? If so, I would love to hear from you!